I ended up in the second row of seats. It wasn’t the plan as I rode along with my dad and sister. She was at the permit stage of obtaining her license.
Because there were eight of us, my parents owned a station wagon. This was before any of us buckled a seatbelt. They hung unused as we flew at high speeds down highways, never thinking.
I would often play in the car because it was somewhere I could be by myself, out of the chaotic house of all the uproar. The far back was my favorite. It was designed with benches facing each other in a circle, much different than the middle and front.
When it was parked in the garage, I would bring in toys and entertain myself away from the tension of parents and four teens. I was so much younger than the rest of them that I had to separate myself from the noise I didn’t understand.
My brothers were often assigned to sit there when we went somewhere, so I did when I got the chance to have it to myself.
My dad had handed me a pack of MMs just before we got in to go on this drive from hell.
If he had to pick something up on the way home, he would get me some and slide them into his pocket. When he walked in the door, he would put me on top of the refrigerator and ask me if I had been good. It was like a truth serum because it was high up, and I was at his mercy to get me down. I always said I was, so he would secretly hand me the packet so my mom didn’t see.
When I found out he was going out on a drive with her, I begged to go and sat way in the back.
I wasn’t aware of the fact that in her driver’s education classes, she had been exposed to so many scenes of accidents and life-threatening situations, which caused her to be extra jumpy with the brake.
And like I found out later when it was my turn to practice with him, he wasn’t exactly the voice of calm. He could make the most seasoned driver nervous before starting the car.
We had barely left home when it happened. There was a truck turning at a distance. I heard my dad tell her to go, but she stopped abruptly, sending me forward. I smacked into the back of the front seat with a thud. I landed, and I didn’t know how I had been displaced so fast.
This was way before all the commercials showing the crash dummies and the consequences of not being strapped in.
I recall sitting on the floor, dazed, much similar to when a bird flies into a window. You are there, but you aren’t.
His raised voice brought me back around.
“That truck was two blocks away! When I say go, go!”
Both of them were so focused on the road that a few moments went by.
When it got quiet, he suddenly realized he had another child in the car, and I was no longer where I had been. He looked down and said,
“Chris, you can’t sit there! Get up on the seat.” As if that was safer.
Not, “Hey, are you okay?” That speaks volumes to what our life was like then, where every man had to look out for themselves. There wasn’t time for me to be flying forward out of control in a car. It wasn’t convenient.
He said it like I had chosen this for fun. When the realization hit me that my candy had also been a victim, that is when I got upset. Not that I could have gone through the windshield headfirst, but that I was holding an empty bag in my hand. I had no idea the danger I had been in.
That wasn’t the only time I was a passenger and subjected to a scary ride. A part of my social service job was to visit potential residents in their homes, other care facilities, or hospitals. I had a waiting list a million miles long. Legislation had been passed that no more nursing homes could be built in our state. Many needed long-term care, so we were never short of possible cases.
This was before the luxury of speaking into a device that would direct you to your destination. It entailed getting on the phone and having someone give you directions that you had to write down.
“So take a left by the restaurant that is operated by my friend’s brother’s sister’s cousin. Then, take a right by the gravel road, come to a stop sign, and then go about two inches before you run right into a gas station that got robbed last week and take an immediate left. Continue straight until you see a white picket fence that needs a fresh coat, and then there will be this huge sign that you cannot miss. The entryway will be right there. But, you can’t park there, so you will have to drive around to the back, and there is this small section where visitors can park, or you will be towed. Does that make sense?”
Sure, it does. And you drove with a piece of paper in your hand with things scribbled on it that made sense when you wrote them, but now they are not readable.
It was madness, and if I was unfamiliar with an area, I could easily get lost. I struggle with getting left and right correct at times. Throw in a snowstorm, then that was a whole other variable to contend with.
I had to work closely with nursing. While I assessed the person’s personality, they determined how much care we would provide. Depending on where the opening was, we had to match the resident to the proper location in the building.
“I am ready to go,” she said, entering my office.
“Okay,” I said, not knowing much about her. She was a new hire, much older than I was, but she seemed very knowledgeable about her profession. This was her first time going on a visit like this, and her supervisor knew I had gone on many of them and would be able to help her.
“I will drive,” she said.
“Do you have directions?” I asked.
“Yes. I wrote them down. You can help me get there.”
I didn’t notice her edginess at first, but then I did detect her breathing seemed a bit more rapid. I kept my eyes on the road as we had started to get into more heavy traffic. While we had been discussing the details of the family we were about to see, she had seemed relaxed, but as we went, she suddenly got quieter.
That is when she started applying the brake too much. There wasn’t any reason to do what she was doing, so I said,
“Are you having trouble driving?”
Cars were going around her, and I could see that people were getting annoyed with her sudden stops.
“I have a trigger leg,” she said with a choke.
I have this weird thing where I see pictures when people say certain words in my mind. I pictured the horse Trigger.
“What?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”
“When I drive, and I get scared, I can’t control my leg.”
I looked down.
“Which one are we talking about?” I asked. I was hoping to God it was not the one she used to drive.
“The one I drive with.” I saw her hands gripped tighter on the wheel, and her forehead looked sweaty.
“I think we are okay. There isn’t anything to be afraid of right now.”
I said this as if I believed it. I was not frightened by the other cars around her, but more so by her behavior.
“Why didn’t you tell me this? I could have done the driving,” I said, feeling trapped in. I controlled my voice so she didn’t know how terrified I was.
“It embarrasses me to tell people,” she said awkwardly.
It got more pronounced with my neck being jolted forward and back, and I was starting to feel sick. I would have to be admitted to the hospital for whiplash by the time we arrived.
I had that familiar feeling of something else taking over and speaking through me to her. The more I told her she was safe, she seemed to stop doing what she said was so uncontrollable. A peace seemed to take over the car, and she quit repeatedly pushing on the brake.
When she parked the car, she told me that she had never been able to get it under control like that before. After our appointment, she asked me if I wanted to drive.
“No,” I said, not believing I was going to let her take me on another ride. “I think you will do just fine.”
It was now rush hour, and she had no problem getting us back without one hiccup or trigger or anything.
In both cases, I was unknowingly in places with the potential for bad outcomes, but it seems like I had been given some heavenly help to protect from injury or death. I was not where I am spiritually now. I was not even giving God the time of day during those periods of my life. But, I was extended what is described in Psalm 34:7,
The messenger of the Eternal God surrounds everyone who walks with Him and is always there to protect us and rescue us. (VOICE)
That says to me that God looks beyond our faults or ignorance and is not a fire and brimstone deity that has been professed by those who don’t know the truth.
The other day, I saw a man standing by the gates of heaven as he waited for someone to cross over. A lady was in hospice and expected to pass soon. She did that night.
I saw him waiting with a big bouquet of flowers that took both hands to hold. I told her daughter this as she was afraid of the process and felt as if her mom would be alone. There was uncertainty about the afterlife and what to expect. Would she be accepted into heaven?
The flowers represented how much he loved this one about to transition. I saw some specific details of this man who resembled a relative that had passed on. When I don’t personally know the family, I feel like I am shooting in the dark, but it was suspected he was a person the dying woman had been very close to by the way I described him. I was able to comfort the daughter, who was feeling uncertain. That is how God works. Even at the point of leaving this world, we are cared for.
Every time I have seen heaven, the gates are never closed. He doesn’t want to shut us out but longs to welcome everyone in.